Tag Archives: Cate Blanchett

The Set of 400: #11 – My Favorite Breakdancing Wizard

Today! Because I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve –

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Directed by Peter Jackson (x5)

Starring Elijah Wood (x6), Ian McKellen (x7), Sean Astin (x4), Hugo Weaving (x5), Cate Blanchett (x6), Viggo Mortensen (x3), Liv Tyler (x3), Ian Holm (x5), Christopher Lee (x6), Orlando Bloom (x3), John Rhys-Davies (x4), Billy Boyd (x3), Dominic Monaghan (x3), Sean Bean (x2), Andy Serkis (x6), Marton Csokas (x3), Bret McKenzie (x3), Sarah McLeod (x2)

I was no Lord of the Rings snob going into these films. I had read The Hobbit in middle school, I want to say, and had an awareness that these other books existed, but I never sought them out to read until that first amazing trailer for Fellowship appeared around Christmas 2000. After that, though, I was quickly all in – I read one book a year as the films were released, just to keep it fresh, and like the rest of the world was generally blown away by the movies as they unfolded. I don’t think this is much of a stretch, but it has to be said – Fellowship of the Ring is the greatest fantasy film of all time, and a nearly perfect movie. The other LOTR films are great, too, and made this list, and carried over so strong that even the first Hobbit film holds a special place for me, but they all kinda pale in comparison to that first incredible film.

I said nearly perfect

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The Set of 400: #102 – My Favorite Elephant Slide

Today! Because there never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope –

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Directed by Peter Jackson (x4)

Starring Elijah Wood (x5), Sean Astin (x3), Ian McKellen (x6), Viggo Mortensen (x2), Billy Boyd (x2), Dominic Monaghan (x2), Liv Tyler (x2), Andy Serkis (x5), John Rhys-Davies (x2), Orlando Bloom (x2), Miranda Otto (x2), Bernard Hill (x3), Cate Blanchett (x5), Hugo Weaving (x4), Karl Urban (x3), David Wenham (x2), Ian Holm (x4), Marton Csokas (x2), John Noble, Bret McKenzie (x2), Sarah McLeod

This movie won Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards. Let that sink in for a minute. This movie – all 201 minutes of it, with all of those endings crashing awkwardly into each other over the last fifteen minutes of the film – won an Oscar for the film with the best editing. Like, look, I love The Lord of the Rings – it probably is the best film trilogy of all-time, and by the time it came to the conclusion it was bound to win all the awards, considering the near-perfect first film lost to the thoroughly meh A Beautiful Mind and the solid second film lost to, like, the fortieth best musical ever made in Chicago – one of the weaker film stretches ever. Still, this movie – drunk on the success of the Extended Edition DVDs I guess and flush with all the cash raked down from the previous two Decembers – chose to just go on and on and on. Maybe the Academy needed a few years to come around to the idea of awarding a pure fantasy Best Picture – it had never happened before – and maybe awarding it every statue it was nominated for seemed like a fitting tribute – it was 11 for 11 – but my God, Best Film Editing? You’re telling me every one of those 201 minutes was essential? You’re telling me that interminable ending sat perfectly with you? Okay, so 2003 wasn’t the world’s best year for movies – fucking Seabiscuit was up for Best Picture – but hell, Best Film Editing also featured Master and Commander and City of God, two absolute triumphs of editing.

And holy shit, if you haven’t seen it, go watch City of God

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The Set of 400: #179 – My Favorite Perambulating Tree

Today! Because what we need is a few good taters –

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

Directed by Peter Jackson (x3)

Starring Elijah Wood (x4), Ian McKellen (x4), Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis (x3), Christopher Lee (x5), Brad Dourif (x2), Liv Tyler, Karl Urban (x2), David Wenham, Hugo Weaving (x3), Cate Blanchett (x4), Bernard Hill (x2), Miranda Otto, Craig Parker

I don’t know that there’s a middle film in a trilogy that suffers more than The Two Towers. For all the cool stuff that’s in this movie – Gollum and the Ents and Wormtongue, I guess – very little has fundamentally advanced by the time you reach the ending, to the point that you can only look forward to The Return of the King when you’re done. It’s hard to sit back and really enjoy the hours you just killed in Middle Earth. Like, I’ve watched the first movie on its own a bunch of times, without then feeling compelled to watch the others in any near future. I don’t think I’ve ever watched The Two Towers without popping in Return of the King very soon after.

Not that it’s just a bunch of standing around, but still

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The Set of 400: #186 – My Favorite Heavily Mirrored Berth

Today! Because I always thought it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody –

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Directed by Anthony Minghella

Starring Matt Damon (x4), Gwyneth Paltrow (x3), Jude Law (x2), Cate Blanchett (x3), Philip Seymour Hoffman (x5), James Rebhorn (x2), Philip Baker Hall (x4), Jack Davenport, Sergio Rubini, Celia Weston

Ah, 1999! My fourth and fifth semesters of college really landed a lot of movies on this list – here we are at eleven already! – and I’m also surprised to find 1998 with only six, and none so far. Those are six pretty high ranking films! As I’ve mentioned, I consider the corridor of 1997-1999 as one of the best in film history (this is also possibly due to my finally being able to drive in this time period), and so films from this era keep cropping up.

A wonderfully atmospheric, psychological thriller, The Talented Mr. Ripley takes Patricia Highsmith’s solid murder yarn and elevates it to great cinema through a bevy of sterling performances and Minghella’s solid writing and directing – his best of the ’90s (Yeah, you heard me, English Patient!). Matt Damon was coming off Good Will Hunting, Gwyneth had just won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, and Cate Blanchett had just been robbed of that same Oscar for Elizabeth. This film also launched Jude Law – even if his career got way uneven for a long time afterward – snagging the film its only acting Oscar nomination as the object of everyone’s desire, Dickie Greenleaf.

I mean, obviously, right?

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The Set of 400: #267 – My Favorite Life on Mars

Today! Because I’m going to find it and I’m going to destroy it. I don’t know how yet –

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x5), Owen Wilson (x2), Cate Blanchett (x2), Anjelica Huston (x2), Willem Dafoe (x2), Jeff Goldblum (x3), Bud Cort (x3), Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Waris Ahluwalia (x2), Seu Jorge, Seymour Cassel, Robyn Cohen

Look, I needed some time for it to grow on me, too. On the heels of the dynamite, breakout combo of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson went all-in on the Wes Anderson-ness, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was born. And I think that most of the affectations people associate with Anderson (the ones that really seem to bother some people) came from this movie. Sure, Tenenbaums kicked it off – it has that epic plot, litany of movie stars, excruciating attention to detail which became standard – but I don’t think anyone knew this would become the template for all his movies going forward until Life Aquatic solidified it.

And in fairness to critics, this is the weakest of his big cast, wide ranging films (Darjeeling Limited is a much smaller movie in almost every regard, outside the road-trippiness). So when I first saw it, I couldn’t help but be somewhat disappointed, given the highs of his first films. But over time, I grew to appreciate all the mannered performances, the single-minded revenge plot, and the greatness of Bill Murray in a live-action Anderson film – something that, while it continues happening to the present day, doesn’t tend to occupy a large portion of screen time anymore. He cameos in Darjeeling, has a very brief role in The Grand Budapest Hotel, and gets slightly more to do in Moonrise Kingdom, but is still a relatively minor cog. And fair, you don’t want the same lead in all your movies – it’s been 15 years since Life Aquatic, maybe time for one last Oscar run for Bill in an Anderson flick?

Glorious

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The Set of 400: #362 – My Favorite Riddles in the Dark

Today! Because if Baggins loses, then we eats it whole –

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Directed by Peter Jackson

Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Lee Pace, Bret McKenzie, Benedict Cumberbatch

Now hang on a second, I know what you’re thinking – The Hobbit? Seriously? But while the unnecessarily expanded prequel trilogy was almost the definition of diminishing returns, I still think that first movie is pretty good. Is it far too much? Yes. But hell, what were Jackson and company supposed to think people wanted, when everyone was snapping up 4+ hour versions of the original films on DVD? They figured the more the better, right? So why not turn a 300 page book into nine goddamn hours of movies? And you know what, good for them. Sure, the whole trilogy doesn’t even come close to the Lord of the Rings movies, but they sure aren’t the complete troll orgies fans made them out to be.

Sexy!

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